John Higgins And Anthony McGill Save The Day For The Scots At World Championship

Despite some scares, Higgins and McGill stood tall for Scotland on snooker's biggest stage
10:30, 20 Apr 2021

There was a point on Monday where it looked on the cards that there would be no Scottish players at all in the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship.  

That would have followed on from a grand total of no Scottish players, including the much-fancied Graeme Dott and Scott Donaldson, managing to make it through the brutal qualifying process at the English Institute of Sport.  

To put this in some kind of context, the last time there were no players in the second round in Sheffield for the nation that produced the record seven-time winner Stephen Hendry was fully 35 years ago, back in the 1980s.  

Stephen Maguire had already crashed out in the tournament’s first major shock to Wales’s Jamie Jones on Sunday, losing 10 of the last 11 frames to go down 10-4.  

Four-time champion John Higgins trailed China’s Tian Pengfei 7-4 during the afternoon, and Anthony McGill was locked in battle and only 5-4 ahead against Ricky Walden. An obliteration was an alarming possibility.  

But not for the first time at the Crucible Higgins, 45, and McGill, 30, stood tall on the game’s biggest stage and flew the flag with distinction.  

Higgins admitted he was a hugely relieved man after reaching the last 16 on Monday night.   

The four-time world champion won the last six frames to come from behind against China’s Tian Pengfei and secure a 10-7 victory at the Crucible.   

Higgins arrived in Sheffield full of confidence after a brilliant recent success at the Players Championship. But he looked to be heading home at the first hurdle when 7-4 down to Tian and badly struggling for any rhythm. 

Higgins finished late on Monday night instead of the early evening as scheduled after the indignity of being hauled off early TWICE during the match for overrunning the allotted session times.   

And afterwards he said, “I am very relieved. At 7-4 down I certainly feared the worst. I was poor and nervy.   

“I could hardly pot a ball and was struggling to breathe, that’s what this theatre can do to you.   

“It can be so tough, great when you are playing well, but soul destroying when you are playing badly.   

“I dodged a big bullet in this match, and should be on my way home. I gave Tian so many chances, and only when he started missing did I start taking frames.”   

McGill, for his part, must now try and halt Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bid for a record-equalling seventh world title after beating Ricky Walden on Monday night.   

The 30-year-old Scot cruised to an impressive 10-5 victory to reach the last 16.   

World No16 McGill took part in one of the most memorable matches in the history of the tournament last year, agonisingly losing 17-16 in the semi-finals to Kyren Wilson.   

That match featured one of the craziest frames ever seen at the Crucible in the decider. It lasted 62 minutes and McGill only lost it to a fluke on the final green.   

But the former Indian Open and Shootout winner has always appeared comfortable on the sport’s greatest stage and is now relishing a crack at defending champion O’Sullivan.   

McGill, who practises with Higgins and Maguire at home in Glasgow, won five of the last six frames as he sprinted over the line against another former semi-finalist in Walden.   

He said, “It was a good win, Ricky is a class player but my performance was very good. I’ll find out if I am a contender in the next round.   

“I’m playing the guy that is the best ever and who won it last year! I have been practising with John Higgins every day, and trying to do what he does.   

“I am looking forward to playing Ronnie, meeting him at the Crucible is the sort of match that puts a smile on your face.”   

Despite breaks of 61, 119 and 88 McGill found himself level at 4-4 with one frame left in Sunday’s first session before talking the narrowest lead into today’s concluding frames.   

Breaks of 83 and a superb 130 put him in charge at 7-4, and though Walden responded with a run of 98 the Scot soon put himself on the brink at 9-5 with a 69 before closing out the contest.

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